Last week Muscat was the host of the first stage of the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series (ESS). With 8 boats competing to be the first stage winners of the 2013 competition the atmosphere was tense. The victorious team from 2012 was Muscat’s very own home team, “The Wave” and they were hoping to make it two years in a row. The competition attracts some of the worlds best professional sailors and Olympians all competing to take the title of champion. Chances are you have never seen sailing like this before- it is exhilarating, intense and action packed.
And guess what? I was invited along to join in the action!
Let me start by telling you that these are no ordinary sail boats. At an impressive 40 foot these twin hulled catamaran’s called “Extreme 40” are slick and designed with pure racing in mind. There is no luxury seating or a place to perch and have a cuppa – these guys mean business! With a top speed of 46mph/74kmh and no protection from the weather elements this is intense sailing. The whole boat, including sails, weighs about the same as a Mini Cooper!! It is not unusual to see a whole hull (or leg as Colin calls it) raised out of the water as the boat turns and zig zags across the water, the fact it is light weight and sleek in design makes it impressively fast and not to be underestimated.
Space can be tight between the boats while racing and I mean literally inches from hitting each other which leaves a huge potential for disaster and this is what makes it all the more thrilling to watch! High speed crashes, wipeouts and capsizes are a really possibility and all part of the game.
What is most unique about this competition is that the teams permit guests onboard whilst they are racing to give outsiders of the sport an insight into the intensity and attraction of extreme sailing. I was lucky enough to be invited to sail onboard the Red Bull boat during Friday’s race and let me tell you that they call this “extreme” sailing for a reason!!
My entire life I have been on boats both big and small as my father was a Captain and we even competed in some races in the UK but no matter how much of a professional I pretend to be, nothing prepared me for how exhilarating yet terrifying it was to be on an actual Extreme 40 racing boat mid race. My heart was pumping faster than it has done in a long time, my eyes were as wide as saucers trying not to miss one second of the action but I was extremely cautious not to get in anyone’s way and hinder their chances.
As a guest on board your role is very simple: Hold on for your life, don’t get in anyone’s way and enjoy it while it lasts! Each race lasts around 12-15 minutes and it is worth all the build up. I couldn’t have been in better hands with the Red Bull Captain being none other than Roman Hagara, a double Olympic gold medalist! What a legend.
Me on board with the crew after the race, my legs were shaking quite a bit by then.
So after the 1st leg of the competition in Oman the home team “The Wave Muscat” were in first place, very closely followed by Red Bull in second place. Third place were Alinghi. The competition now moves on to Singapore’s famous Marine Bay for the 2nd out of 8 stages.
For me it was an utterly unforgettable experience and I am privileged to have been a part of such an event so a BIG hank you to Red Bull for letting me get involved! Good luck for the rest of the competition.